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I gave this book report a separate page instead of adding it to my music book reports page because of the long index you'll find below. Check my music book reports page for a few other books about music.
"Little" is 3.25 x 5 inches (8.3 x 12.5 cm). There are 121 anecdotes, each given its own little chapter, in the 275 little pages. The value of the stories is that they are the sort of thing that generally aren't told in the music encyclopedias and reference books; they help us get to know the musicians and composers as people to some extent or another. I guess the stories are mostly true. Here are some of my favorites.
J. S. Bach took some complimentary words from the Margrave of Brandenburg as a commission, and whipped up the Brandenburg Concertos for him. Even though he was a patron of the arts and had his own orchestra, he never made use of Bach's gift. It wasn't until a hundred years after Bach's death that the Brandenburg Concertos were published and played.
There's the celebrated religious work called the Miserere by Allegri. The Pope did not allow it to be performed outside of the Sistine Chapel, and to copy it meant excommunication. But 14-year-old Mozart attended a performance, went home - and wrote it down from memory! This story is even corroborated by the 1936 Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians in the article on Allegri. A minor discrepancy is that Grove's has Mozart writing it down while the choir was singing. Still, I'm impressed.
On the other hand, an anecdote in Kaufmann's book about pianist De Pachmann gives an almost completely opposite impression from the entry in Grove's. Kaufmann shows him with an enormously swelled head, crying, "Gut, De Pachmann," aloud while performing. Grove's says he was "his own severest critic". He retired 8 years once from performance for hard study, and another time 2 years. This doesn't disprove the Kaufmann anecdote, of course.
There's a story about soprano Mary Garden's strapless evening gown:
An amorous old gentleman kept his eyes glued hopefully on Mary's white expanse of bosom. Finally he could bear it no longer. "What keeps your dress up, my dear?" he asked. "Only your age, sir," retorted Mary.
I don't quite get it, although I presume it's supposed to be slightly naughty. Still, I was quite proud of myself when I found the source of the anecdote in Rudolph Bing's autobiography, 5000 Nights At The Opera. At a performance of Carmen in Bing's second season at the Met (1951-52), Mary Garden came up to his box (page 180):
She came up to my box, an old lady in a remarkable strapless gown, and one of the even older men said to her, "What makes that dress stay up?" She said, "Your age, sir."
"Good catch, Donald, my man!" you say. But hold your horses. Kaufmann's book was copyrighted in 1948. And before you propose the simplest solution, that Bing's memory was off by a few years, consider that he arrived in the U.S. in 1949 to observe the Met's operation in preparation for taking over as manager in the 1950-51 season. If you figure Bing will just slap down any ol' story and pretend he was part of it, reading any handful of pages from his book will dispel you of that notion. It drips with names, places, dates, and times, and reproduced memos and letters - not a fuzzy memory in sight. Read the whole thing, by the way. It's great. It needs an index, too.
Still, anyone's memory will play tricks on him, and my best explanation is that when Mary visited Bing's box, she recounted the story to him, and as the years went by (his book is copyright 1972) his memory turned her story into an actual event in the box. That's a stretch, admittedly, but it seems more likely than the same incident - with almost identical quotes - occurring twice. Don't look at me.
UPDATE, Oct 2008: I've found the story again in Opera Anecdotes, by Ethan Mordden, page 174.
Chauncey Depew stares at Garden's decollete and says, "Tell me, Miss Garden, what's holding that dress up?"
Garden looks him spang in the eye and answers, "Your age and my discretion."
There's a story of conductor Leopold Stokowski dropping in to visit Igor Stravinski in Berlin in 1920. Stravinski had never heard of him, or his orchestra, or even Philadelphia, and didn't want to be bothered. Stokowski went away fuming and brought back a batch of records with him conducting. He passed them through the door and Stravinsky actually played them before finally deciding the guy was for real. This brings to mind another anecdote involving Stravinsky, a visitor, and a record. The visitor was a young, unknown violinist named Arnold Steinhardt - not yet of the Guarneri Quartet - seeking tips on playing Stravinski's violin concerto. Stravinsky must have mellowed by that time. Read that story on my music book reports page.
Stephen Foster's "Old Folks At Home" was originally published with a song-writing credit to Christy of the Christy Minstrels. The reason given here is that Foster didn't want to get a reputation as just a composer of "Ethiopian melodies". Coincidentally, I got to this anecdote in the book the day after seeing the "Old Folks At Home" sheet music on display at the "Piano 300" exhibit at the Smithsonian (Jul 4 2000.) There was Ed Christy's name, as big as life.
There's a good one about Paderewski's famous Minuet. Paderewski often visited a Dr. Chalubinski who was a "passionate devotee of the music of Mozart." Thus, Paderewski was obliged to play the 3 or 4 Mozart pieces in his repertoire again and again for Chalubinski. Paderewski got a bit bugged by this Mozart worship and whipped up a little minuet in that style. According to Kaufmann:
The next time he visited the Doctor, in response to the usual request for "a little Mozart, please," he played his own Minuet. The response was even better than he had anticipated.
"Marvelous, indescribable!" cried the host. "Tell me, Paderewski, tell me honestly, is there anyone now alive who could write such music?"
"Yes, Doctor, there is."
"There is? Who?"
"It is I."
"Impossible. I am surprised at your effrontery. How dare you say such a thing?"
"But I wrote the Minuet you have just been hearing."
Nobody likes to be duped, so it's not surprising this put a strain on their friendship. But things were patched up soon enough, and the Minuet became so widely played that you can even find two guitar transcriptions of it listed on my page of guitar music I've gotten from the Library of Congress.
Kaufmann says Tchaikovsky's B flat Minor Piano Concerto was well known to "lovers of popular music, thanks to the syncopated arrangement played by dance bands." Anybody with ears in 1948 remember that?
Bizet was crushed by the initial response to Carmen, and died before it became a triumph a few months later.
The book claims that Dvorak's "Goin' Home" melody was a spiritual tune gotten from "one of his favorite students, a young Negro boy." I believe all the authorities agree the tune is a Dvorak original, even though some people may still think it's an old spiritual.
The main point of the story of army man Marc Blitzstein's unique commission for a symphony on the Air Force was all the interruptions he experienced from 1943 to 1945. One was a six-week period in which "he coached a chorus of Negro G.I.'s. Under his leadership, they gave a magnificent concert, which was one of the high spots of the London musical season." It'd be fun to track down a contemporary review of that one.
The story of "How Guam Became Music Minded" in World War II is a funny one. Here's the background: "When in 1904, the Americans received Guam from the Spaniards, it was a sorry acquisition. The island was poor, devoid of educational and health facilities... Moreover, it was practically bankrupt of music. The natives knew only one tune, a sing-song chant of indeterminate origin. This they produced on every occasion, grave or gay. It made for a certain monotony." (Hee hee hee.)
Most of the rest of the book is given over to infighting, back-biting, insults and feuds between musicians. That's when they're not going deaf or dying young or thrown into deep depression by first-night flops. Criminy, even Waltz King the First (Johann Strauss) resented Junior's success. I'm exaggerating here for effect, but musicians sure can come across as a right miserable lot.
In case you ever find the book (remember, little - and red), here's an index I've put together for it. Let me know if you ever make use of it, ok?
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Index to "The Little Book Of Music Anecdotes" by Helen L. Kaufmann Alda, Frances 248 Allegri 43 Arne, Dr. Thomas 7 Auber 116 Bach, JS 10 28 30 98 Balakireff 137 Bartok 262 Beethoven 53 56 58 60 62 66 68 102 135 154 166 171 176 201 250 Benchley, Robert 108 Berg, Alban 217 Berlioz 65 70 92 131 Bernstein, Leonard 274 Betti, Adolfo 221 Beyer 174 Bizet 142 176 Blitzstein, Marc 271 Borodin 137 140 Boulanger, Nadia 268 Brahms 31 166 168 221 Breuning 56 62 Bru"ckner 166 Bu"low, Hans von 147 160 166 189 201 Cartier 193 Chaliapin 139 Chalubinski, Dr. 187 Charles II 3 Charpentier 248 Chasins, Abram 186 Chavez, Carlos 213 Cherubini 70 72 Chezy, Helmine von 107 Chopin 92 104 Christofori (singer) 44 Christy 150 Clementi 58 Copland 267 Couperin 193 194 Cui 137 Damrosch, Walter 268 Debussy 189 262 267 Degeyter, Pierre 227 Delsart, Jules 110 Devrient 99 Diaghilev 208 Dittersdorf 193 Downes, Olin 193 235 Dukas 262 Durand 267 Dvorak 158 166 Dvorsky 194 Dyer, Cpt. George 224 Ehrbar 170 Einstein, Albert 252 Elman, Mischa 190 195 197 200 Emmett, Daniel 129 Enesco, Georges 190 263 264 Esterhazy 37 39 Ferber, Edna 216 Flonzaley Quartet 221 Foster, Stephen 150 Francoeur 193 Fricken, Ernestine von 87 Garden, Mary 230 Gatti-Casazza 248 Gershwin, George 237 Gilbert, William 177 Gilmore, Pat 148 Glinka 135 Gluck 17 Godowsky, Leopold 200 Goethe 63 Goldberg 30 Gordon, Jacques 190 Gostling 3 Gottschalk 128 Grainger, Percy 178 Grieg 174 178 Gru"newald, Matthias 254 Guardasini 45 Guardia, Fiorello La 218 Guirard, Ernest 164 Hammerstein 216 Handel 7 32 33 Haslinger 116 Hayden 35 37 39 41 Heifetz 195 200 254 Hindemith 254 Hofmann, Josef 194 229 Howe, Julia Ward 149 Hubert 145 Ives 270 Jeritza, Maria 240 Kanin, Garson 273 Kern, Jerome 215 Kreisler, Fritz 190 196 Lanner, Joseph 191 Leoncavallo 176 Leopold, Prince 10 Leschetitzky 188 Liebling, (Leonard?) 252 Lisle, Rouget de 75 Liszt 89 104 Lomax, John 205 Lully 21 Maelzel 62 Martini, Padre 193 Mason, Dr. Lowell 119 Mason, William 128 Massenet 262 Mehul 78 Melchior, Lauritz 240 Mendelssohn 95 98 101 Merelli 122 Meyerbeer 83 104 184 Miaskovsky 235 Monteux, Pierre 208 Moszkowski 223 231 Moussorgsky 137 139 Mozart 43 45 49 50 187 252 Muck, Karl 239 Newman, Ernest 186 Nicolaev 257 Nijinsky 208 Nottebohm 166 Nourrit, Adolphe 104 Noyes Alfred, 219 Oeberg 232 Offenbach 164 Pachmann, De 231 Paderewski 67 187 201 Paganini 155 Paisiello 79 Pergolesi 24 Philip, Isidor 262 Piccini 18 Ponte, Da 45 Porpora 193 Prokofieff 235 Prokosch 153 Pugnani 193 Purcell, Henry 5 Rachmaninoff 186 235 Rameau 21 Ravel 242 Reiner, Fritz 256 Rimsky-Korsakoff 137 181 Rivera, Diego 214 Robeson, Paul 215 Rome, Harold 213 Roosevelt, F.D. 206 Rossini 78 81 83 Rubinstein, Anton 229 Rubinstein, Artur 210 Rubinstein, Nikolai 145 Ruzicka, Dr. 74 Saint-Saens 160 162 262 Scarlatti, Domenico 14 109 Schelling, Ernest 220 Schestakoff, Mme. 135 Schikaneder 50 Schluessel, Sanford 197 Schmehl (drummer) 243 Schnabel, Artur 252 Schoenberg 217 261 Schubert 73 108 Schumann, Clara 85 89 Schumann, Robert 85 89 Scriabin 235 Servais, Francois 109 Shostakovitch 138 257 266 Slezak, Leo 184 Smetana 152 Solera 123 Stamitz 193 Stokowski 232 Stradella, Allesandro 1 Strauss, Johann 113 115 166 Strauss, Richard 204 256 Stravinsky 207 232 235 Sullivan, Arthur 177 Tartini 23 Tchaikowsky 140 145 Toscanini 218 242 246 248 250 Verdi 121 126 Villa-Lobos 210 Vivaldi 193 194 Wagner 143 160 166 239 240 Weber 103 107 Whiteman, Paul 237 Widor, Charles Marie 262 Wilder, Alec 260 Wolf, Hugo 172 Woollcott, Alexander 215 Zager 172 Zelter 98